Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

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Taxes & 7-Eleven…

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Taxes on April 8, 2018 by Sufen Wang

Oh Thank Heaven! You Can Pay Income Taxes with Cash at…7-Eleven?

That’s right, you can now visit your local 7-Eleven to buy a nice cold soda, a bag of chips, a lottery ticket…and pay your income taxes. This year, the IRS and the convenience store chain will be making things more convenient for anyone who owes taxes and doesn’t have a bank account, checks, or a credit card.

In the past, any folks who wanted to pay their taxes with cold hard cash needed to travel to an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center. However, these offices can be few and far between. Now people can quite literally go just around the corner to any 7-Eleven and pay their income taxes with cash. Just remember that a 7-Eleven probably isn’t the safest place to wave around a big wad of money, so stay smart and watchful.

The option is made possible via a partnership between the IRS and ACI Worldwide’s OfficialPayments.com and the PayNearMe Company. Since most 7-Elevens are open all day every day and more than 7,000 stores are participating across the country, paying with cash is almost as easy as paying online. It does take about 5 – 7 business days to process though  — anyone trying to pay by the April 16 filing deadline will be out of luck.

Also, before taxpayers grab their greenbacks and hurry out the door, they must go online to start the payment process. Head over to the IRS.gov payments page, look for the “other ways you can pay” section, select the cash payment option, and read the instructions. You can pay up to $1,000 each time, with a $3.99 charge for each transaction. Just remember to bring extra dough with you for the donuts and coffee.

 

P.Ssss… Here a preview on what you need to do to pay your taxes by cash… 

 

 

Step 1

Visit the Official Payments site and follow the instructions to make a cash payment with PayNearMe.

Step 2

You’ll receive an email from Official Payments confirming your information. The IRS will then verify your information. This process may take two to three days.

Step 3

After the IRS verifies your information, PayNearMe will then send you an email with a link to your payment code and instructions. Either print the payment code at home or send it to your smartphone.

Final step

Go to the retail store listed in the PayNearMe email and ask the clerk to scan or enter your payment code. You will receive a receipt from the store after they accept your cash. This receipt is confirmation of your payment and should be kept for your records. It usually takes two business days for your payment to post to your account.

Really?!  Just write a check and be done with it!

 

 

 

Sufen Wang, M.S. Accountancy
www.sufenwang.com
Wang Solutions, Long Beach, CA (562) 856-0793

Editor: Hannah Huff, M.F.A. Creative Writing: Poetry, (626) 806-5805

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Tax Reform! Now What?!

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Taxes on April 8, 2018 by Sufen Wang

The Tax Reform Bill Passed – Now What Happens at the IRS?

Signing a bill into law with a fancy pen is the easy part. The hard part is what follows: implementing that law efficiently and effectively. Such is the reality of the tax reform bill signed into law on Dec. 22 by President Trump.

As the agency clearly most impacted by the tax reform bill, the Internal Revenue Service will need more than a few upgrades to carry out the changes. This means things like new and improved computer systems, along with training for an expanded IRS workforce so that the agency can provide proper guidance to both tax professionals and taxpayers. Moreover, since support for the tax reform bill was garnered based on certain results claimed by its politician proponents, the agency needs to be able to enforce the law to make those claims come true.

Unfortunately, that’s not likely to happen if the IRS doesn’t receive additional funding. A former IRS commissioner, Lawrence B. Gibbs, explained that the agency won’t be able to “mount a sufficient compliance effort to make sure folks obey their tax obligations under this new law” unless the agency gets more funding. As we’ve seen in the past, the IRS’s service quality ebbs and flows with its available budget.

The problem is that Republicans in Congress have a history of voting to slash the IRS budget, and things don’t look like they’re going to be changing. While talk of the IRS’s fresh new needs has begun to crop up, the word from the House and Senate Appropriations Committees isn’t promising: they’ve proposed a IRS budget in FY 2018 of $120 million less than the FY 2016 funding level. And with those changes from the tax reform law waiting in the wings without any confirmed funding increases, things aren’t looking very bright for the IRS, taxpayers, and tax preparers.

 

Sufen Wang, M.S.Accountancy
Wang Solutions, Long Beach, CA (562) 856-0793
Editor: Hannah Huff, M.F.A. Creative Writing: Poetry, (626) 806-5805

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Clueless About Expert Witnesses?

In Accounting & Finances,Business on January 18, 2018 by Sufen Wang

Here’s How to Find the Best Forensic Expert for Your Case

“Forensic expert” is a hot buzzword that’s been floating around, specifically in the last few years. This professional is an expert witness who can provide you with forensic testimony at a trial. But what actually makes a forensic expert, an expert? And how do you go about choosing the right one? Get your detective kit out, because you’re going to have to do a little snooping.

First and foremost, your forensic expert must be able to play by the rules, and specifically Federal Rules of Evidence 702. If you want him to testify, he must have specialized “knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education” such that this knowledge “will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence.” Although the “or” technically means your expert only needs to possess one of the above, the more boxes he can check off, the better. Plus, the evidence code varies in some states, so if your potential forensic expert can’t stand up to your off-the-record cross-examination of his qualifications, he’s not likely to win one for you on the stand.

The above rules are just a basic starting point. Ideally, your forensic expert should have a full skill set beyond those generalized requirements. He should also be able:

  • To write a detailed report – If what he tells you in-person sounds great, but his writing reads like a dime novel, you’ll probably want to continue your candidate search.
  • To verbally explain his opinion if he gets called to testify at trial – If his writing is great, but the cat’s got his tongue when he talks, you’ll probably want to continue your candidate search.
  • To present his opinion in layman’s terms, both in writing and out loud – If he’s a pretentious expert who uses over-the-top jargon and technical terms that make it impossible for anybody except himself and other experts to understand what he wrote and said, you’ll probably want to continue your candidate search.

To speed up the weeding-out process, you can start with good old social media. Google your potential forensic expert and see what comes up. If you find pictures of all-night parties or complaints from past clients, you’re gonna’ wanna’ pass. Check out the supposed expert’s LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc., paying especial attention to his professional organizations, his education history, where he was trained, etc. Many professionals now proudly post their full CVs online, which is a goldmine of information that you can cross-check.

The trick is to think about your forensic expert like opposing counsel will surely be thinking about him: is there any juicy tidbit that could potentially impeach him as your witness? If there is, on to the next one! If you’re lucky, as a bonus, your research might turn up info about the opposing examiner that can be used during the trial.

Once you find info on your forensic expert, don’t actually believe that data until you can confirm it. For example, if his CV says he has forensic credentials, make sure you double-check those credentials. See if the granting organization really offers them. You might discover that the expert gave himself a “Best Forensic Expert” cup and decided he could reword that and add it to his CV.

Secondly, make sure the organization itself is reputable. There are way too many places online that will issue a “Forensic Consultant Certificate” faster than you can make a grilled cheese sandwich. This will require you to get smart on reputable organizations and valid certifications in the forensics field in question. For example, in the document examination field, the Board of Forensic Document Examination, American Board of Forensic Document Examiners, The National Association of Document Examiners, and the Scientific Association of Forensic Examiners are all well-known choices.

You can also dig a little deeper into the forensic expert’s choice of trade organization. Not all trade organizations are created equal, and they can reveal a lot of about your expert’s integrity. For example, in registered 501c(6) not-for-profit organizations, the members must subscribe to a code of ethics – which is a very, very good thing. You know that the members of those organizations generally aren’t in it for the moolah, but rather for education, networking, and maintaining currency in the field. Then you’ve got for-profit businesses just pretending to be certifying organizations. These certificate mills churn out examiners with little or no experience and inflated resumes.

In short, do your homework and take advantage of all the info that is now publicly available online.

If the forensic expert is passing muster so far, you’ll want to hear things from his own mouth – as a trial run for the trial. He needs to be both honest and accurate; there’s no room for mistakes when it comes to talking about his experience in his field of expertise. If he’s fumbling when you’re casually asking him about his background, he’s going to get crushed when grilled by an attorney during deposition and cross-examination, which could completely compromise your case.

If you get tired while doing all this research, just remember that the parties on the other side of your case are going to be doing their homework on your guy as well. And, if you take the time to do your due diligence, you’ll eventually be rewarded with a well-qualified, reliable forensic expert. Best of all, you can give yourself a “Best Forensic Expert Finder” mug after you win the case.

Sufen Wang, M.S.Accountancy
Wang Solutions, Long Beach, CA (562) 856-0793
Editor: Hannah Huff, M.F.A. Creative Writing: Poetry, (626) 806-5805

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Business Interruption & Comm’l Damages

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Insurance & Liability,Taxes on November 8, 2017 by Sufen Wang

How to Assess Business Interruption, Commercial Damages

Unfortunately, with all the flooding and fires raging across the country these past few months, there are business losses that need to be assessed, argued and settled. But how?

Let’s take a closer look at a little something called business interruption insurance. Investopedia defines this as “a form of insurance coverage that replaces business income lost as a result of an event that interrupts the operations of the business, such as fire or a natural disaster. Business interruption insurance is not sold as a separate policy, but is either added to a property/casualty policy or included in a comprehensive package policy.

That second part is important. Since it’s not a standalone policy that business owners have to beat around the bush to buy, businesses affected by the fires and floods likely already have this handy dandy coverage. While standard business insurance has things covered in terms of physical losses and damage – e.g. computers and office furniture destroyed in a fire – business interruption insurance is a safeguard against the losses that arise when a business can’t run due to this destruction.

The insurance covers lots of things that crop up when manmade or natural disasters interrupt an enterprise, including lost revenue, rent and other fixed expenses, and temporary location operating expenses. Nevertheless, there’s always some kind of fine print, so here are a few key things to keep in mind when it comes to business interruption claims:

  • The insurance contract ultimately has the last word, so any loss estimate needs to fall under the contract’s umbrella. For example, the policy may specify that losses will only be covered for a specific period, and so anything outside that time-frame is a no-go.
  • That being said, the time element wording in most policies is intentionally unclear, with the loss period often being defined as starting from the occurrence of the loss and continuing until the damaged property is replaced.
  • Don’t put the cart before the horse; that is, before the business interruption claim can be filed, the business property damage claim needs to be filed. Remember, the interruption of business is a consequence of damage to the physical property, so if there’s no claim of damage, a claim of the business being interrupted holds no weight.
  • That being said, some business interruption policies have an add-on provision that lets the business claim an interruption in operations if damage to their supplier causes a hiccup in product delivery.

Business interruption coverage claims usually take into account three categories of loss, which are then added together for a nice neat sum of the loss:

  • Actual losses (projected revenue for the loss period less saved expenses)
  • Continuing and non-continuing expenses (e.g. the business wants to continue to pay employees even while closed so that there’s staff available when the doors finally open again).
  • Expedited and extra expenses (i.e. the business wants to get back on its feet as soon as possible, but this expedited opening will likely incur extra costs, such as ordering supplies by air rather than the usual truck delivery.)

In some cases, a business may decide to hire a financial expert to calculate the losses relating to an interruption event in conjunction with the claim filed with the insurance company. This expert will take a long, hard look at things like the business’ income for the past several years, loss statements, and checking statements to carefully estimate losses due to the hitch in the operations. In addition to these more concrete numbers, they’ll also consider factors like the economic climate in the damaged business’ market during the loss period.

While juggling all of these figures, the expert will be taking pains to avoid double counting, just like in any other loss analysis. Double counting is a miscalculation where a business’ inventory gets “sold” twice. Since the business’ property/content coverage will most likely pay for the value of the lost inventory, any lost profits calculated from a business interruption should take into consideration this assumed payment for lost inventory.

As mentioned above, the expert will be looking at three categories of losses – actual lost profits, ongoing non-saved expenses, and extra & expedited expenses incurred from reopening – which they’ll total to get a nice neat sum of the loss. As such, a business interruption loss estimate conducted by a financial expert allows all of the business’ losses to be carefully considered. This is important because at the end of the day, the businesses damaged by these disasters are just looking to get back on the road to success.

Oh…one last word…insurance companies will send a year-end 1099-MISC Income on all non-property damages related reimbursement as income to the businesses.  So, beware of all labor-cost reimbursement from your Business Interruptions Claim, they are taxable as income to the business.

 

 

Sufen Wang, M.S.Accountancy
Wang Solutions, Long Beach, CA (562) 856-0793
Editor: Hannah Huff, M.F.A. Creative Writing: Poetry, (626) 806-5805

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IRS Collection Debt Program

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Taxes on September 11, 2017 by Sufen Wang

IRS Rolls Out Debt Collection Program

Folks out there who think nothing bad happens when they don’t pay their taxes are in for a rude awakening. The IRS is rolling out a debt collection program that involves sending over individual tax debts to four private debt collection agencies. That’s right, the IRS is calling in backup, and it plans to ramp up the collection program into higher gear over the next two years, according to IRS Collection Policy Director Kristen E. Bailey.

The agency is starting off with individual tax debt cases that are 2 – 4 years late and that have an average liability of less than $50,000. In contrast to audits, where the IRS seems to spring more often for the big fish, this time it seems like even the little guys can expect phone calls from collectors sometime soon – at reasonable hours, of course. In fact, it’s probably more important than ever to know what private debt collectors can and can’t do, in case you’ve got some past due tax bills sitting on your desk.  For example, private collectors don’t have enforcement powers, so they can’t issue liens.

So far since April, the IRS has assigned about 400 cases across the board to these four collectors. In 2018, the agency has plans to pass along double-whammy cases where an individual taxpayer not only owes taxes, but also has a minimum of one unfiled return. Then in 2019 things will get even more serious with the agency handing over business cases to the private collectors.

Bailey did clear up what effect the new tax debt collection program will have on Americans currently living abroad: zilch. The four companies participating in the program are restricted to operating in the U.S. states and territories, so anyone who’s enjoying mimosas in another country can sleep peacefully knowing they won’t be badgered by collectors. However, this only works if the IRS has the overseas taxpayer’s most current foreign address.

The bottom line is that, although many of us have tried, ignoring a bill doesn’t make it magically go away. In fact, it usually comes back with a vengeance: interest, late fees, hassle, headaches, and more. If you can’t pay your taxes on time, don’t just sweep the problem under the rug. Instead, find out what your options are before it gets sent to collections – and the IRS’s taxpayer advocate service is a great place to start.

Sufen Wang, M.S.Accountancy
Wang Solutions, Long Beach, CA (562) 856-0793
Editor: Hannah Huff, M.F.A. Creative Writing: Poetry, (626) 806-5805

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IRS – Picking Up the Phone!

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Taxes on August 21, 2017 by Sufen Wang

They’ve Answered the Call: The IRS Puts Up Respectable Stats for the 2017 Filing Season

With basketball playoffs in full swing, fans are packing sports arenas to cheer and weep as their favorite players rack up incredible stats…take, for example, Lebron James hitting his 17th playoff triple-double or Russell Westbrook recording 3 straight playoff triple-doubles.

Meanwhile, in the hushed halls of a stoic building at 1111 Constitution Ave in Washington, D.C., keyboards were a-clacking and mice were a-clicking as the Internal Revenue Service rounded off a tax season filled with equally impressive stats.

The IRS’s customer service game was on-point in the 2017 filing season – at least in comparison with past years plagued by clogged call lines and unresponsiveness. Back in March, the IRS’s John Dalrymple swore that things were looking brighter, and he was right: the agency managed a 75% telephone response rate for this full filing season. Now that’s a pretty good rebound, considering that the 2015 percentage was 37 percent – that’s right, 37 percent – and it puts the level of service slightly above last year’s stats.

What’s been behind the boost? Well, just like athletes who need adequate support and resources to train and succeed in the big game, the IRS needs to have enough money to get the job done. The agency received an additional $290 million for the fiscal year ending on Oct. 31, 2016. With a continuing budget resolution in operation this year, the IRS still has access to the additional appropriation, with the bottom line being better customer service.

On the defensive end, the IRS put out even more impressive numbers. According to an interim 2017 filing season report released by TIGTA, as of March 4 the IRS had stopped a whopping 95 percent of fake tax refunds, preventing $961 million from getting dished out illegally. The IRS had also spotted and confirmed 14,068 fraudulent tax returns involving identity theft as of March 2.

Taxpayers are lucky the agency has its guard up, considering the slew of identity theft tax refund schemes lurking around, including the recent W-2 scam that targeted unsuspecting HR personnel. It will be interesting to review TIGTA’s analysis of the IRS’s record for the complete season, which will be released in September of this year.

In the meantime, even though there weren’t any literal slam dunks, half-court swishes, or breakaway layups during the 2017 tax filing season, let’s give the IRS a small cheer for its respectable performance on the court this time around. After all, how well the IRS is working directly reflects on the taxpayer filing experience.

Sufen Wang, M.S.Accountancy
Wang Solutions, Long Beach, CA (562) 856-0793
Editor: Hannah Huff, M.F.A. Creative Writing: Poetry, (626) 806-5805

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W-2 Corporate Email Scam

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Taxes on June 17, 2017 by Sufen Wang

W-2 Corporate Email Scam Still Rampant in 2017

Just because tax season is over doesn’t mean scammers are taking a vacation. In fact, according to IRS Return Integrity Compliance Services Acting Director Tamara Powell, the W-2 scammers never left and are still victimizing HR and payroll departments across America.

The W-2 scam first reared its head in 2016, and after a brief hiatus, returned with a vengeance at the beginning of 2017. As a result, the number of organizations that fell prey to this insidious email scam that involves identity thieves posing as company bigwigs jumped big time this year – and the thieves are showing no signs of stopping. Basically, if it ain’t broke, cybercriminals are going to keep using it.

It’s worthwhile to recap how the scam works, so everyone knows what to look out for: via e-mail, the swindlers will pose as a company’s corporate officer – real name and all – and request employee Form W-2s from the company’s HR and/or payroll department. Once the thieves get their dirty paws on the W-2s, which include private details like employee SSNs, names, and income info, they use the info to file fraudulent tax returns for refunds.

In the first third of 2017, a whopping 870 organizations reported that they received a W-2 phishing e-mail. That’s a big number considering that only about 100 companies reported being the unlucky recipients during the same time frame last year. Even worse, whereas only 50 organizations fell victim to the scam and lost data in 2016, around 200 lost data this time around, which could translate into headaches for hundreds of thousands of taxpayers. The bottom line is that the scam got worse this year.

The problem is that the data breaches usually get discovered weeks or months after they first happen, at which point the criminals have already sold the data on the dark web or used it for their own nefarious purposes. According to Powell, identity theft criminals have a big budget and are technically sophisticated, and they start prepping for the filing season even before the IRS does.

The best defense against this phishing scam is awareness, so spread the word to all of your HR/payroll colleagues, friends, family, acquaintances that there’s a bad scam still on the loose!

Sufen Wang, M.S.Accountancy
Wang Solutions, Long Beach, CA (562) 856-0793
Editor: Hannah Huff, M.F.A. Creative Writing: Poetry, (626) 806-5805